Visitor Comments and Letters - September '97

These messages have been edited. Although I feel the content is of interest, Iwant to provide as much privacy as possible to the various people who have takentime to comment. Let me know if you feel this is an interesting page. KJ

August 19, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Scott

I am bringing my family to Carlsbad, California in November and I "wanna" fish!

I have checked your pier fishing site, it's great!

I only have one week in Carlsbad and can't spend all of it fishing or my wife and daughter might dis-own me. Do you have any suggestions on what my best bet is to catch a fish with out spending a fortune for a fishing charter? I will consider a deep sea charter if it is reasonable and if I stand a better chance to catch one. I am not looking for a specific fish, just a "bigun."

Any advice would be appreciated. P.S. Is there a pier near Carlsbad?

Scott , Ontario, Canada

Hi Scott,

Sorry for the delay in responding but I just returned from a trip along the California coast - pier fishing of course.

As for "BIG" fish in the Carlsbad area, you're best bet would be to book a spot on one of the party boats out of Oceanside (which is just a few miles away). It's hard to say how conditions will be in November, but the boats have had a fantastic season for tuna and yellowtail. California is experiencing El Nino conditions which means water is very warm and species more common off Mexico have moved north. However, it usually starts to cool by November. The El Nino also means California may experience a VERY WET winter. So again, it's hard to say for November.

As for piers, there are two in Oceanside. One is the huge municipal pier which is about 1950 feet long and has experienced great fishing most of the summer. The other is a very small pier located down along the road which circles Oceanside Harbor. Fishing isn't always as good at that pier but it's a great place to take kids. The other closest piers are San Clemente to the north and in San Diego to the south -- so just stick to Oceanside.

(What the heck, why don't I include info. on the piers? Attachments - Oceanside Pier and Oceanside Small Craft Harbor Fishing Pier.

Hi Ken!

It's Scott, you responded to my e-mail requesting information on pier fishing, I had mentioned I am from Canada and my family and l will be vacationing in Carlsbad in November (15th-22nd ).

Ken, I must first thank you for the detailed response you gave me! I printed it off so l can refer to it from time to time when l am down there. There was so much valuable information that there would be no way l would be able to retain it all without it being printed. I hope you do not mind that l have your years of experience in print. I promise not to publish it and l do not think l pose a threat of "fishing out " the area for the week I am there.

A little about myself: l am nearly 41 years old, and have been fishing for 36 yrs. although l can't seem to remember the first couple years? l must not have caught any significantly large fish the first two years!

l deem myself as a very experienced fisherman in my parts but when it comes to throwing a line into salt water l deem myself a "mental midget." l have never fished an ocean, just fresh water.

l must admit the fish you mentioned such as yellowtail, threshers, bonito, etc. seem to be from another planet. The bait such as Krocodile lures, mackerel, calamari (har har !) etc., are baits that l have never used.

l fear the seasoned pro. of the North will be diminished to a confused rookie when l hit the waters of California. That is why l have copied your letter.

Unfortunately my time will be limited during my one week stay. l must visit the San Diego Zoo, Disneyland, Beach ( my wife and daughter are sun worshipers ).

My hopes is to get out on a shared boat for some ocean fishing for a half a day, and hit the pier {Oceanside } that you had mentioned. l don't expect to become a pro overnight, but l do hope to catch something! It does not have to be a 12 ft Marlin but l would like to hook on to something bigger than a bread box.

l hate to impose on you and understand if you do not get back to me, but l have some questions, that l suppose would be eventually answered when l get there, but if you know the answers it would make my life a lot more simple and save me time and frustration.

Ken, Can l rent fishing poles and reels in the area? We are flying and limited in space not to mention that l probably have the wrong "setup." Do the boat charters supply poles and bait?

Scott, both the sportfishing landings and the Oceanside Pier carry rental tackle.

What is the cost to share a fishing charter boat for the day? or half a day ? If l cannot get other people to "share" what is the cost to rent one myself ?

Scott, I would recommend you go out on one of the local party boats. Although there are charter boats available, and you might have a better chance at a truly big fish on one of them, they are MUCH more expensive. In addition, southern California party boat fishing is different from most types of party boat fishing and I think you should experience it (although you should try to avoid a weekend day because of the crowding).

Confidently assuming that you know the area are there any tips for us? i.e., places to go in the area and places not to go? Is the naval boat tour worth visiting? We are limiting ourselves to a 100 mile radius. We will have a rental car but again, time is an issue.

Scott, There are a lot of places to go in the San Diego-Orange County area. Some suggestions: After visiting Disneyland stop for dinner at the Fisherman's Restaurant which sits at the foot of the San Clemente Pier. Be sure to visit the San Diego Zoo and Sea World while you're in San Diego. Yes, a naval boat tour is interesting and I think you can make connections at the Broadway Pier in San Diego (at the foot of Broadway). Another interesting site, fairly close to Carlsbad is the North County Animal Park -- a part of the San Diego Zoo. It shows the animals in a more natural surrounding. A drive north to Newport Beach is also interesting. Head north on Interstate 5 and then take the coast highway route just north of San Clemente; there are a lot of great art galleries in Laguna Beach, a nice little beach, park and pier at Aliso Beach (just south of Laguna Beach), and the interesting peninsula at Newport Beach. If you go to Newport Beach take a bay cruise; the number of boats on the bay is unbelievable).That's just a start.

A little more about ourselves before l close off this letter: We live in a city called ..., in Canada. It is about 45 minutes from Niagara Falls and 30 minutes from Toronto. My daughter is four and carries with her , a generator if she runs out of power and spunk! {she has never had to use it!}

We are a "down to earth" family, never to be in the annals of history, but always trying to be {betcha if l caught a 800lb jacksmelt l would be!}.

Hope to here from you Ken, and thanx again for your detailed response, it was appreciated more than you will ever realize. Have a great week Ken !

P.S. Here are some fish that l am use to "whipping" line at: pickeral, speckled trout {spec's}, northern pike, gar pike, ling, catfish [small ling], white fish, lake trout, coho salmon, chinook salmon, musky {best fighting fish for it's size in the world 20 lb average}, small and large mouth bass, sunfish, yellow perch, sturgeon {caviar}, brown trout, of course are variety is limited compared to yours but we have great fun up here!

Take care, Scott

Hope you and your family have a great trip and hope you catch a BIG fish. I imagine your thoughts are similar to mine when I read a magazine like Field and Stream and see pictures of the large pike and muskies. Every area has its fish, its techniques, and its good fishermen.

Best wishes, Ken

Ken have a great month. If you are by the Oceanside Pier on November 15-22 and you see a man on the pier trying to keep his 4 and a half year old daughter away from the edge, while trying to explain to his wife why he had to buy some smelly anchovies, and fumbling with sheets of paper printed off the internet with Ken's name on it, that would be me. From one fisherman to another "keep on fishing."


September 3, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Artie
Subject: Shovelnose Guitarfish

We catch a lot of these sharks. People call them sand sharks at Port Hueneme. Can you give me some tips on catching the bigger ones at the Pier. Usually, they tell me to just kill it because they said if you throw it back, they will bite again. How can I prepare these fishes. How do I cook it. Also, it has horns at the back. Are we talking about the same fish?

I went to Ventura Pier this labor day. We didn't catch a lot. One small mackerel, a couple of smelts and a couple of croakers (looks like).

We use the Filipino Jig a lot at Port Hueneme. It gets us a lot of smelts (without any bait). When we tried putting some shrimp on the hooks, we got some decent mackerel at the end of the pier. Is there a limit on the number of mackerel and smelt that you catch on the pier? Do you know of anybody who has gone fishing by the breakwater. I'll try that next Sunday. I'll let you know of the results.

Thanks for the nice home page. Do you know of good deep sea fishing pages? OK, I'll e-mail you again soon.

By the way, my name is Artie ... from Woodland Hills. I'm a Network Engineer by day, and an Angler on the weekends(I wish I could do it on weekdays too). Hope to see a lot more updates on your page to come.

Hi Artie,

Guitarfish are a lot of fun to catch but as far as the bigger fish, you have to have a little luck. A bigger bait (a whole squid) may keep some of the smaller fish off the hook but nothing will guarantee that you only catch the big fish unless you only use huge hooks. Don't kill the smaller fish -- let them grow up to a bigger size. If you are catching guitarfish (and check out the guitarfish picture on my archives page) you can eat the tail meat. Cut off the tail, cut it open from the top and remove the two long bone-free fillets. They can be cooked in almost any manner you prefer.

In answer to your question about smelt and mackerel: no, there isn't any limit but why waste them. Take only what you will use.

As for web addresses, check out my links page and try out the United Anglers page or a couple of the fish report sites. Some of them carry the info. you seek.

I'm sorry but I can't help you with info. on the breakwaters.

Do keep in touch, I'm always looking for reports on the piers and interesting stories to put on the site.

Best wishes, Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

September 7, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Kevin
Subject: Beginner in fishing

Hi, I am starting to learn how to fish. I found that there are so many different jargons and names that I have no clues. Even down to the basics and equipment, I still have a lot of things need to pick up. Right now, I am thinking about buying a new fishing rod and reels. I am confused about the varieties out there. I hope that you can help me to clarify some of the confusion here.

What are the differences in Spincast reel, spin reels and bait cast reels? When do I use Spincast, or Spin reels or Bait cast Reels?

I am really looking forward for some guidance and help here! Thanks in advances!




There are hundreds of different reels on the market and most are fairly good quality, especially if you buy from a quality line of reels such as Penn, Shimano, Daiwa, etc.

I never use spincast reels; I used them a couple of times when I was very young and found them to be unreliable. There are some better brands, but even those I don't recommend. I think most spincasting reels are designed for the beginning fisherman and that all are really designed with fresh water in mind, not salt water.

Spinning reels are probably the most common reels for light and medium tackle fishing in salt water. There are many good brands and are designed to handle both lures and weights up to 5-6 ounces (the heavier reels). They are fine for almost any type of pier fishing.

Casting reels are especially good for situations where you are using heavy sinkers and/or are fishing for large fish. Most boat fisherman who are fishing on the bottom with a weight will use a casting reel. Although it takes more practice to learn, casting reels can also cast as well, if not better, than a spinning reel. But again, it takes a lot of practice and the back lashes (snarls) scare away many anglers before they have mastered the art of casting with a casting reel.

The key to all of this is to buy a good quality reel and then practice and practice casting until you're good at it. As for myself, I typically use two outfits when I visit a pier. One is a light tackle spinning outfit, the other is a medium tackle spinning outfit. Both reels are Penn reels that are metal and will take a lot of wear and abuse (although I take good care of my reels). When I target bigger fish like sharks and sturgeon, or am fishing where I need a lot of weight, I use a casting reel.

The best thing you should do is find a good bait and tackle shop and ask questions until you feel comfortable with your tackle - and then continue to give that shop your business. It's amazing how much you can learn from the experts at a good shop.

Best wishes and hoped this helped, Ken

September 8, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Cruise, Kelly
Subject: Ventura Pier.

Wasn't too bad on Sunday, Sept. 7th. Small mack and jack smelt. A couple of queenfish. Weekend before, there wasn't as many mack, and I did get one small calico bass. Queenfish were pretty good. Also last weekend, some small perch.

Thanks for the information. Do you fish the pier on a regular basis? If so, would you be interested in being a reporter for the pier?

Best wishes,

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

September 8, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Alfred
Subject: Giant Kelpfish

Dear Mr. Jones,

First I would like to congratulate on both an excellent book and website. I was wondering if you could suggest a likely place/techniques to catch a giant kelpfish. I believe that you suggested Berkeley Pier, but I've never seen either kelp or kelpfish there. I've seen them caught off the beach north of Malibu, and I read your report mentioning catches in Oceanside and Malibu.

I know it's probably a rare incidental catch, but that to me is part of the fun. Speaking or rare, do you have any tips for wolf-eel?

Thanks very much.


Hi Alfred,

Thanks for your very kind comments.

As for the giant kelpfish, I've caught them at several piers but I don't believe they are that common with the exception of the Paradise Cove Pier and the pier at Gaviota (but only during the years when the pier is surrounded by kelp). I have caught a few at the Berkeley Pier but more common are the somewhat smaller crevice kelpfish. I have also caught crevice kelpfish at the small Agua Vista Park Pier in San Francisco.

Almost all of the kelpfish that I have caught were caught in a similar fashion. A couple of size 6 or 8 hooks tied directly to the line above a 1/2 ounce sinker. Bait was pileworms or blood worms. Fish the inshore rocks, especially around any submerged yet visible rocks that appear to have crevices or channels between the rocks. The kelpfish will hide under the rocks and then dash out to grab the bait. They're not big but will drag your hooks into the rocks if you don't give a quick jerk. They're attractive little fish on light tackle. By the way, all of the kelpfish I caught at the Berkeley Pier were taken in this manner -- and all were taken down around the rocks at the foot of the pier.

Wolf-eels are another matter. They're also great creatures but not quite as cute. I've only seen a few caught off of piers but two places in the Bay Area worth a try are the Fort Baker Pier and the Elephant Rock Pier. Unfortunately, the Elephant Rock Pier is currently closed. One place I have heard that sometimes produces wolf eels is the rocky shoreline along the Sausalito waterfront. It might be worth a try. The fish are good eating but watch out for those strong jaws.

Lastly, I agree with you that variety is part of the fun. I've now taken 102 different species of fish from California's piers and I'm always hoping for a new species. This year's new species for me was deepbody anchovies and I caught two -- one off the Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego, and one at the Seal Beach Pier, a hundred miles to the north. Strange!

Got to go but best wishes and hope you catch a new species!

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

September 8, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Ben Szu
Subject: Crystal Pier


Just wondering, if Crystal Pier is one of your favorite piers to fish, why is it not on your web site under the "Reports" section? I would love to see reports for it because once I go back to school in two weeks, I'm going to be fishing that pier a lot.



It is one of my favorite piers but unfortunately I live six hundred miles away and haven't found a reporter for the pier.

Perhaps if you're going to be fishing the pier you could be the reporter for the pier! What do you say?

Best wishes, Ken

Ken, I would be more than happy to tell you my results after each trip I make. But because of my classes, I don't know how often I'll be able to go. Next week, I'll be back in school there in SD. I plan to go as much as I can in the first few weeks. What species are good around this late summer early fall time? I'm hoping I can catch some halibut. Are they around? What I'm afraid of is the large swells that will be caused by hurricanes and El Nino this winter may damage the pier. I read in the LA Times today that the '83 El Nino took out Crystal Pier. Hope that doesn't happen. Well, let my know about what should be biting down there this time of year and I'll let you know what I catch. Thanks.



Pier species will be about the same as summer time up until October (or even later this year). You should be able to get a few croakers, some halibut, and the smaller species like queenfish, mackerel, jacksmelt, etc. It's really hard to tell with the El Nino -- and I share your concern about the winter storms.

Best wishes, Ken

September 9, 1997
To: Patrick
From: Ken Jones
Subject: Sorry !

Dear Patrick,

Today I was going through some old mail and spotted your note. What shocked me was that I had never replied to your message! I apologize profusely!!! Normally I reply within a couple of days at most but at that particular time I was on a fishing trip down south! Unfortunately, I somehow failed to return your message after I got back home. Anyway, thanks for your very nice remarks and I hope you have continued good success at the local piers. I'm afraid I didn't do too good when I fished Port Hueneme.

Best wishes,

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

Dear Ken

I was glad to see that my mail didn't get lost in the shuffle. I would like to share a humorous story that I'm sure you've heard many a time. Maybe it should be a warning to many novice fisherman.

I told you I was going to Port Hueneme. Well, I did. I got there about 8 in the morning to get a good tide. I was catching my mackerel and surfperch for bait. A complete "newbie" was to my left as I was at the end of the pier facing out. Well, he didn't have any sinkers to weigh his line down & kept floating across everyone's lines. I told him to use one so as not to upset the rest of the pier. Meanwhile, a guy to my right at the end of the L portion of the pier kept hooking into stingrays and letting them take his hook to the complete opposite end (south) of the pier crossing everyone's lines there!!! I was getting pretty discouraged. I told him to keep his tension tighter so it wouldn't run so much. He finally lost it. Well, I finally put my 9' surf rod with Penn 500 reel back in the water (cast out about 40-50 yards) and got my spinning rod back in my hands with a bonito jig just to see what I could stir up. Well, the guy to my left lost the sinker he had & I wasn't a local tackle shop. His line kept drifting in front of me. I decided to go to the rail behind me, facing the shore to try my jig. Well, I got it cast out, started reeling in and I heard "Hey!! Who's rod is that??" I turned around and it was GONE!! SH..! My whole surf setup was just taken by something quite large.. Yes, I forgot to tie it to the railing. We all learn by our mistakes, don't we.

Well, Ken, that's my wonderfully humorous (now, not then) story. I hope you enjoyed this little event. Oh, by the way, the rod setup belonged to my brother. He laughed a little as well.

Just thought you'd get a kick out of it. Take care for now.


Patrick Whalen


I'm glad you can laugh at the situation now but I bet you weren't too happy at the time. At least you know there were some big fish out there.

How's fishing at Port Hueneme now? I was down there last month and was skunked - and I rarely get skunked. I couldn't even snag up a smelt or mackerel. However, I heard some tales of some decent fish.

Keep in touch, Ken Jones

September 10, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Joe Ruelas
Subject: Lobster season

Ken, I was wondering if you knew when the bug season starts. I can't seem to locate any dates. Just lazy I guess.

Thanks, Joe


According to my book, the season for spiny lobster runs from the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through the first Wednesday after the 15th of March.

Hope that helps.

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

September 14, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Parman
Subject: Rods and reels

What's a good medium priced rod and reel for me and my 6 year old son. We fish Gaviota pier all the time and because we use 7 hook rigging, we can get a lot of weight at times! Because of the harsh elements on the ocean, should we get some stuff at Wally Mart? I could go for a Shimano Calcutta, though, because I could use it in other applications. The rod - medium 6 to 8 ft? I dunno. Help!


I typically fish with two rods, a medium action 8-foot pole and a light 6 1/2-7 foot pole. The heavier rod is capable of handling a 2-4 ounce sinker (I rarely use anything heavier) and the light rod is best for 1/2-1 ounce of weight. I use the heavier pole for most of my bottom fishing, especially if I am after sharks, large croakers, etc., while I use the lighter pole when fishing for jacksmelt, mackerel, and other small to medium size fish. I find that I catch 80% of the fish on the lighter pole and that it is sufficient for MOST fish (especially because you can feel the bite better). However, if you want the bigger sharks and rays get a heavier pole.

As to where to get it. I prefer to use a bait and tackle shop because they will usually back up their equipment and they generally give some pretty good advice. Still, depending on the availability of a local tackle shop, you can get good rods at places like Wallmart (and possibly for a cheaper price) than at a tackle store.

As for Shimino -- they're excellent rods. I use one.

Best wishes, Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

P.S. You might E-mail Ron whose E-mail address is on the tackle tips page -- he's a real expert.

September 15, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Mark Grims
Subject: Pier Fishing in California Apparel

Hi Ken,

I was wondering if you have any or if you are considering having any special apparel made with the Pier Fishing in California logo on it. If you do, I would like to know how to go about getting a hat, jacket, or T-shirt or whatever else you might have available.

Let me know,


Hi Mark,

I am working with a guy right now on a design but he hasn't finished it. I'll let you know when we have something that looks good.

Best wishes, Ken

September 19, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Bombermon
Subject: Newport Pier

Hi, I went fishing with two other kids, one being my son last Sunday, the day before the hurricane named Linda came north. I could hardly believe it! People were hauling in huge mackerels like crazy!!! My son's girlfriend caught one 17" long! That was not uncommon, either. People had loads of them that size. We fished from 7:15 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. We had so much fun! One guy also got a two ft shark. I also caught a bass and so did another lady. The waves were huge that day, the surfers loved it. I landed 16 and lost 4 on the way up. It was a great day!

Hi Bombermom,

Thanks for a great report on the Newport Pier (and I've included it on the October report).

Best wishes and keep in touch.

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

P.S. Do you fish the Newport Pier often? I'm looking for a reporter for the pier.

September 19, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Paul
Subject: Fishing

Hi, my name is Paul and I live near Phoenix Az. I lived in Riverside and used to fish Balboa Pier all the time. We have the pier fishing book you published, but it is a few years old now. Our next trip out there will be on 10/7/97, and I was wondering what pier, tackle, and bait you would recommend for shark, bat ray, and halibut. Also, what time of day would be best to go. Are there any lures that work good out there? Thanks for any help you can provide.

Hi Paul,

I would recommend the Newport Pier for sharks and rays and almost any pier for halibut at this time. Best hours for the sharks and rays are in the evening and squid is probably the best choice for bait. Best wishes for your fishing trip.

Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

September 20, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Boyd Grant
Subject: Report

Ken -

Good news! The halibut are finally biting at Goleta and Gaviota. I've caught 15 since mid-August ... landed a 4 pounder at Goleta last Tues. evening (after losing a 10lb+ at Santa Barbara on Sunday because I didn't bring my net). The biggest one caught at Goleta (two weeks ago - not by me, unfortunately) was 28" and there were unverified rumors of another over 20 lbs! All are caught mid-pier. One of the rangers at Gaviota told me that Ron (another staff member?) landed a 34" Halibut

fishing from the end of the pier using a whole (8-10") live mackerel two Sundays ago.

I've had great success dragging the bottom less than 20' from the piers - I use frozen anchovies snout-hooked to a 2/0 live bait hook tied to the end of 20# test and weighted down with a small split-shot (1/4" - how do you measure split-shot?). I cast to either side and let the bait settle to the bottom ... then I bring it up several times and let it settle back down before finally dragging it very slowly (4-6" per second). I hold the pole balanced in my hand and have to be extremely alert to when the bait is picked up - if it meets with some resistance I stop dragging and wait for the line to start pulling away before I set the hook. Works like a charm! But it is such an intensive effort that I usually only fish the hour before and after the tidal high. The advantage here is that (unlike still fishing with dead bait where, if you catch one at all, they swallow it all the way down making it somewhat difficult to extract from a short without severely injuring the fish) it generally produces a fish hooked thru the side of the mouth which can be released without hardly any damage at all.

But the biggest thrill of all was a 6-lb, 24" white sea bass (at first I thought it was a giant croaker)! I have never landed a harder fighting fish in my life ... it was really heart-breaking having to return it

but I didn't think that even standing on it could stretch it to the legal 28" (even tho there were several people who had suggested it). In the future I am going to arm myself with a Polaroid so that I can at

least capture them on film.

The El Nino is producing some interesting effects here - one night I caught a 12" octopus and a 16" mackerel. The young lady next to me caught a 10" Pacific lobster. Shark fishing appears to be picking up as well - on Tuesday I helped land 2 4' smoothshounds and I have caught 5-6 30" shovelnoses. My brother caught a 16"-3.5# kelp bass at Gaviota and I continue to catch at least several legals each trip to Goleta.

By the way - for those who rebel at the high parking fees at the Santa Barbara wharf - good news!. The city will allow you to park for free if you get there before the kiosk opens at 7:15-7:30 AM - I usually get there around 6 AM and the parking crew jots down the license plates of all cars parked there when they open so that they can keep track of who doesn't have to pay. However I noticed recently that they don't even look at the list - you just tell them you got there early and they wave you thru.

That's all for now - I hope I can continue reporting such good news for the next couple of months at least!


Boyd, Thanks for a GREAT report! Ken

September 23, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Mike
Subject: jacksmelt


Hi, I am not a pier fisherman but as a kid I remember going with my father fishing piers somewhere in the Ventura Oxnard region catching lots of fish. I don't remember what kind of fish they were, but they were definitely not mackerel. I believe they were jacksmelt but I am unsure if they are caught regularly there. I do remember eating them and they were absolutely great baked in the oven. The fish were about the same size as mackerel, but they had different mouths. Can you tell me if they are jacksmelt and what your opinion is on eating them? Where can I go for the best jacksmelt fishing? I love the site, but I wish it were updated a bit more. Thanks for the time Ken.


Hi Mike,

It sounds like your talking about jacksmelt (which have a small mouth) but you might also have been catching jack mackerel. The smelt are one of my favorites to catch but I really don't regard them as great food on the table. They're not bad, just not great. They have quite a few bones and sometimes a lot of worms in their flesh -- which looks bad but isn't harmful if cooked thoroughly. They are however a blast to catch on light tackle and often provide some super sport when nothing else seems to hit.

The easiest rigging to use is simple to tie three size 8 or 6 hooks directly onto your line above the sinker. Attach a small piece of pile worm or bloodworm to each, cast out, and then slowly retrieve your line. Another way is to attach a large bobber, float or balloon a few feet up your line and let the rigging float in the water. If a school of jacksmelt is around they will hit it -- and often 2-3 at a time. A final method is to use light gear and a small spoon.

I'm not sure the best area down there but almost all piers will have runs of the large smelt from time to time and I know that is true at both the Ventura Pier and Port Hueneme Pier because I've caught them there.

Give them a shot and let me know how you do.

Best wishes, Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman

September 26, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Ritchie Reano
Subject: Ferry Landing Pier

Hi Ken,

Fishing is still good at the Ferry Landing. The bass fishing, both in number and size have been decreasing. Mackerel runs are consistent with the early morning and late evening hours being the most productive. Halibut continue to be caught almost everyday although most are undersize. Yellowfin croakers can be caught if targeted with ghost shrimp or mussels. An occasional sargo sometimes shows up. One good fishing afternoon during the month for me produced 3 undersize halibut, 2 legal bass, 1 bat ray, and a softball size octopus. All returned to the water.

I saw one bonito landed recently. using feather jig/splasher combo. No other to speak of.

For those looking for ghost shrimp, there seems to be a good bed of them north west of the pier.


Hi Ritchie,

Thanks for a great report! Ken

September 30, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Ben Szu
Subject: Crystal Pier

Hi Ken,

Went to Crystal pier yesterday from 3-6. Didn't come home with anything. Caught undersized bass and halibut. I saw 2 other croakers and 1 mackerel, that's about is for the afternoon. However, I saw someone with a bucket of small croaker, so it seems like that there was a morning bite. Planning to go again on Wed afternoon to actually bring some fish home. Any suggestions for halibut (as you can tell, I really want to catch a legal halibut, and I remember you saying once that this is a great halibut pier)?



Thanks for the report. I'm still hoping you get that big halibut.


September 30, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Bombermom
Subject: Newport Pier

Hi Ken! I want to be able to go about twice a month, but I'm not sure we can all get together and go. I have a daughter 25, a son 20, and a son 16 with a girlfriend.... A little hard to do. I love fishing off the pier though, it is such a blast. I still have a bag full of mackerel in the freezer. I haven't used much of it. I just love the thrill of catching them and landing them. Each time I do get to go, though I will e-mail you and let you know how we did. Have fun fishing!!!!

Hi Trudy,

Thanks for your help with the fish report. You're in the report this month (which I hope will be up tomorrow).

Best wishes, Ken Jones, the Pier Fisherman

September 30, 1997
To: Ken Jones
From: Kevin Cheung
Subject: Question on halibut


I discovered your site. And I think it is one of the best. It taught me many things about fishing in Santa Cruz. To be honest, I consider myself a beginner when it comes to fishing. I hope that I can learn more from you guys. Among all the questions that I have, I think that you can help me with this one. How can I identify a California Halibut from a Pacific Halibut? Although I have never caught any halibut, but I am very anxious to know that.

Anyway, thanks for the great site, keep it up!

Sincerely, Kevin

Hi Kevin,

There are several features which differentiate the California halibut and Pacific halibut:

  1. The eyes on the California halibut can be either on the right or left side of the head but normally are on he left side; the eyes are always on the right side of the head in a Pacific halibut.

  2. Both have a large mouth but the maxillary (jaw bone) of the California halibut extends beyond the eye; the maxillary of the Pacific halibut extends to the back edge of the eye.

  3. California halibut are common in inshore areas, especially in the spring and summer; Pacific halibut are rarely taken inshore although young fish will sometimes come inshore during the summer north of California (and I imagine a few might show up in the Crescent City area).

  4. California halibut are one of the favorite California pier fish; Pacific halibut are rarely caught off California piers.

Hope that clears up some of the confusion.

Best wishes, Ken Jones, The Pier Fisherman